On the Line: Brett Brennan
Chef Brett Brennan of Oshun
Name: Brett Brennan
Location: Oshun; 5 E. Huron Street; 848-4500
Current Title: Kitchen manager
How many years behind the stove: 5
I first met Brett Brennan when he was a promising young culinary student. Unlike many young cooks, he was attentive and driven. It was clear Brennan knew what he wanted and was ready to inform and hone his skill set so that when he graduated, he would not be simply eager, but also capable. Along the way, Brennan won the Northeast Regional leg of the Jeunes Commis Culinary Competition sponsored by the Chaine des Rotisseurs, and went on to compete at the national level. During his education, the American Culinary Federation also recognized him. A good amount of travel through Europe and Asia, as well as work as a stagiaire, kept him busy post graduation.
Today, Brennan is at the helm of one of Buffalo’s newest restaurants, downtown’s stunning sanctuary of seafood, Oshun. Owned by chef/owner Jim Guarino of Shango, Oshun offers a menu that evolves based on what’s fresh at market, so the young chef’s creative side gets a daily workout. Patient and polite, Brennan might not be the type of chef you’d expect to find in charge of a bustling downtown dining destination, but Brennan creates a dining experience at Oshun that is easily as fresh and eageras he is.
What qualities make a good chef? In the twenty-first century, a good chef has respect. Respect for oneself, toward his/her entire restaurant staff and food. Respect toward one’s peers in the industry, and more importantly, toward the mentors that provided opportunities. And, ultimately, respect toward the patrons that come in and support their restaurant’s vision.
Biggest difference between a pro and home cook? Home cooks have the privilege of spending all day cooking Bolognese or chicken soup. Short-term deadlines are the huge difference between home cooks and pros, and, in my opinion, it’s the biggest reason why prospective chefs leave the industry. It’s mental warfare.
Favorite classic dish or preparation? Right now I’m all about comfort food. Mac and cheese, meatloaf, lasagna, fried chicken. At Oshun, our kitchen staff sits down to a daily staff meal, and it’s not about composed dishes and garnishes. It’s just really tasty comfort food.
Trend you’d like to explore more: I love utilizing different flours for different purposes. Grinding down grain to make flour, and understanding different protein and starch levels within flours is really fascinating. Gluten intolerance has become a huge deal, and it’s nice to experiment with alternatives. Anytime I can work with chocolate is a huge bonus as well. I think contemporary confections are going to be the next big thing in Buffalo.
Restaurant you’re dying to try: Next in Chicago. Those guys are doing some really innovative techniques with really approachable ideas. The definition of deconstructing cuisine. I really want to try one of Alex Stupak’s desserts as well.
Your go-to food reference cookbook: I like having one go-to cookbook for specific cuisines. For example, My New Orleans by John Besh for Southern cooking. On the Line by Eric Ripert for minimalist seafood preparations. The more ways you can look at fabricating a chicken, the better your cooking repertoire will be.
Best LP to cook by: Pyromania by Def Leppard. It’s also a great LP to drive the majority of people out of the prep kitchen.
Food no chef should love, but you do anyway: Anyone who knows me knows my love for fast food. Anything from Sonic to Big Boy to Taco Bell to Popeyes. It’s the worst.
What most diners don’t realize is: That oyster that took someone two seconds to slurp took hours to clean and maintain before it was ready to be shucked.
What Buffalo’s food scene really needs: Other than a really awesome fine dining Chinese restaurant, Buffalo is well on its way to having everything that it could possibly want in terms of restaurants. Moving forward, what Buffalo really needs is the support of our community. We need locals to go to local restaurants.
The most exciting thing about Buffalo’s restaurant scene is: How opinionated everyone is getting. From immediate opinions about food they’re eating at restaurants to talking about local chefs and bartenders through social media. It’s scary, but exciting.
Christa Glennie Seychew is Spree’s senior editor.